HSE to develop guidance standards for occupational exposures to metalworking fluids

Industrial Lubrication and Tribology

ISSN: 0036-8792

Publication date: 1 October 2000

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(2000), "HSE to develop guidance standards for occupational exposures to metalworking fluids", Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, Vol. 52 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/ilt.2000.01852eab.001

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited


HSE to develop guidance standards for occupational exposures to metalworking fluids

HSE to develop guidance standards for occupational exposures to metalworking fluids

Keywords Health and safety, Standards, Metal working fluids

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is developing guidance material setting out standards for the reduction of health risks to workers exposed to metalworking fluids.

The move has been made in the light of two developments. The first is a study showing current practice in control of metalworking fluid exposures in 31 engineering companies.

The findings give some cause for concern.

The second development is that the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC's) Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS) has concluded that new occupational exposure limits cannot be derived for mineral oil or water-mix metalworking fluids. It has also recommended that the mineral oil mist Occupational Exposure Standard should no longer apply to metalworking fluids. If the HSC decides, after external consultation, to follow the advice from ACTS, there would be a need for a new source of standards for control; the proposed guidance would meet that need.

The HSE study, carried out in conjunction with the Health and Safety Laboratory, used new air-sampling techniques to measure workers' exposure to mineral oil and water-mix metal-working fluid mist. Information was also collected on the fluids and processes used, and on control procedures, in order to ascertain current practice in controlling exposure. In addition, fluid samples were taken from machine sumps to measure for bacteriological content, endotoxins, fines levels and other contaminants.

Martin Stear of HSE's Occupational Hygiene Unit said: "Many of the companies visited were found to have poor control of fluid strength, poor sump replenishment methods and poor control of contamination. Failing to manage sump fluid conditions can not only affect the quality of the machined work piece and the tool, but also increase the risk of ill health among operators."

The main health concern associated with metalworking fluids is dermatitis, with around 200 cases of contact dermatitis a year – related to exposure to cutting oils and coolants – reported to EPIDERM (a scheme in which dermatologists report cases of occupational skin disorders). The true number of cases is almost certainly higher, however. There is also an association between exposure to these fluids and respiratory effects, including bronchitis and asthma.

The proposed new guidance – scheduled to be published late next year – will utilise data from the study of company practices to develop new standards. The guidance will also describe good practice methods for controlling exposure to mist and managing sump fluids.

Christopher Davies of HSE's National Engineering Group said: "We want to develop very practical guidance that will enable companies to compare their results to those derived from good practice, so that they can gauge their performance. In addition to good practice methods for controlling mist and managing sump fluids, the guidance will include guide values for mineral oil and water-mix metalworking fluid mist and for sump fluid contaminant levels."

Robert Stubbs, speaking for the British Lubricants Federation (BLF), which supplies most of the metalworking fluids used in the UK, added: "The BLF and its Project Stewardship Scheme are fully committed to HSE's new guidance. This is a chance for us to work together to develop an industry standard for the protection of the health of workers exposed to metalworking fluids."

HSE would like to hear from any companies in the UK who feel that they are following good practice, controlling exposure to mist and managing sump fluids effectively. Suitable examples will be included in the guidance to demonstrate what can be achieved. If you would like to share your company's experiences with controlling exposure or have any other information, please contact: Martin Stear at HSE. Tel: +44 (0)151 951 3620; Fax +44 (0)151 951 3595; E-mail: martin.stear@hse.gov.uk

Copies of the study – Metal Working Fluids (MWFs) – Exposure Assessment Document – ref EH74/4, ISBN 071761797 I, price £7.50, can be ordered online at http://www. hsebooks.co.uk or are available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: +44 (0)1787 881165; or Fax: +44 (0)1787 313995.

HSE information and press releases can be accessed on the Internet http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/press.htm